Training Command CQ aboard the USS Lexington, AVT-16, back in the late 80′s. The Lady Lex – as contrasted to your correspondent – was a wee, bitty thing with old fashioned equipment: A catapult that was “instant on” – none of your gradually increasing acceleration aboard the Lex – and arresting gear that required due diligence from the pilot and LSO combination to land on centerline, without any drift, since (unlike modern day arresting gear) it had no centering mechanism to keep Dilbert from getting dunked, if he landed in a drift.
Nossiree, at a mere 33,000 tons dripping wet, there wasn’t a lot to the old girl, and if a man wasn’t careful he might miss her entirely. It was all very well and good for student naval aviators to set out to land aboard her in the day time, not knowing any better. But even back in the day of such bantam weight vessels as the Coral Maruand Midway, the salty fleet veterans tended to purse their lips thoughtfully at the notion of conducting CQ aboard the last wooden deck carrier in the Navy, and the F-8 guys rushed out in a clutch to update their wills when the word came down that they’d be hurling themselves at the back end of the “Blue Ghost.” At night.
(You’re probably not going to watch all of that. The F-8 ramp strike – day time – is the first video clip, and demonstrates how the Vought fighter could go from being on-and-on one second to you’re-forked-low in another. After that, well. You’re probably not going to want to watch all of that. I warned you.)
Dilbert was having a pretty good day of it, all things considered, flying his trusty TA-4J Skyhawk in his final Training Command CQ. Until that moment came when he fixated on the Fresnel lens – the technical term is “glomming”, as in “he glommed on to the ball” – neglecting his responsibilities in the article of line-up control. Paddles did their best, but it was to no effect. Our man landed left, drifting left. He stopped with his left main landing gear kissing the deck edge.
People got excited, too, which only contributed to our man’s already moderately advanced sense of unease. What with all the screaming and shouting. The Air Boss finally got through to him on his third or fourth, “Power back, power back – we’ve got you!” piece of friendly advice. At the top of his lungs.
When Dilbert finally did reduce his throttle the Boss asked him to look down and to his left, asking, “See that?”
Upon looking to his left, our man had to admit to himself that there was nothing between himself and the devil but the deep blue sea. “Yes sir,” he replied, his voice quavering a bit.